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Now or Never... It's Imperative to Reduce Recidivism

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I’d like to offer you some insight on recidivism and alarming statistics that point to how important it is to delegate more time and resources to improve these numbers. "Recidivism is the behavior of a repeat or habitual criminal. A measurement of the rate at which offenders commit other crimes, either by arrest or conviction baseline, after being release from incarceration". ( ) Next, I’d like to provide you with this statement as written by Vikrant P. Reddy of the Charles Koch Institute. "In America, we have come to misunderstand the phrase ‘tough on crime’. Toughness means-or it should mean-accountability. A society that is tough on crime holds offenders accountable. For many crimes, prison is one way we rightly hold people accountable. But it also means that people who have committed crimes must do the following after or in lieu of incarceration: get a job, earn money to pay restitution to victims, get drug and alcohol treatment, and ultimately, live self-sufficiently rather than as a ward of the taxpayers. Somehow, though, ‘tough on crime’ has begun to mean merely incarceration, which in turn often means little more than asking offenders to sit in a locked room and watch television all day. Where’s the toughness in that?"

This is where mine and thousands of others, frustrations lie. There are times our justice system could do better, for example holding those accountable after the eighth drug related arrest instead of a slap on the wrist when the offender has proven they are going to continue to repeat the offense. The other side of that is that we are spending billions on those incarcerated but not doing nearly enough to move toward what Vikrant Reddy talked about. The majority of offenders are released after their term only to repeat the same or a new offense landing them right back in the same situation.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, there are approximately 207,000 people incarcerated in federal prisons. Roughly half (48.6%) are in for drug offenses. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are approximately 1,350,000 people in state prisons. Of them, 16% have a drug crime as their most serious offense. (July 2015)

The NADCP (National Association of Drug Court Professionals) offer the following facts gathered by research from the Pew Center on the States, Belenko & Peugh, Karberg & James and the National Institute of Justice.

*1 in 100 U.S. citizens are now confined in jail or prison

*The U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than 26 of the largest European nations combined.

*80% of offenders abuse drugs or alcohol

*Nearly 50% of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted

*Nearly 60% of individuals arrested for most types of crimes test positive for illicit drugs at arrest

*60-80% of drug abusers commit a new crime (typically a drug-driven crime) after release from prison

*Approximately 95% return to drug abuse after release from prison

Per Bill Keller, author of the report ‘Seven Things to Know About Repeat Offenders’, "Approximately 45% of federal inmates are rearrested within five years of release".

Findings of claim that "Recidvists are most likely to commit their new offense within two years of release and this suggests that society should spend heavily on supervision and reentry programs for the newly released and not as much after four or five years".

While the Bureau of Justice Statistics also states, "Drug are also related to crime through the effects they have on the user’s behavior and by generating violence and other illegal activity in connection with drug trafficking".

My hope is that after this initial information you’re interested in the following look at realistic solutions that are for the majority just implementing new ideas, time and money into areas that have already been initiated or discussed in many areas. Per research by the FAMM (Families of Mandatory Minimums), "Ninety-six percent of federal prisoners are eventually going to leave prison and rejoin society." The holdup is always money, but honestly, is there really a choice?

The motto of the BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons) is "release preparation begins the first day of incarceration". The following is a list of programs and ideas that are currently being implemented to some extent or are on the table for Congress to approve.

*Build a school district within the federal prison system-citing research that shows inmates who participate in corrections education programs have 43% lower odds of returning to prison than those who do not.

*Pay for the cost of state-issued ID cards-an independent consultant estimated that by the cost and time of gaining every inmate a birth certificate and ID card before release, would actually save the system money by providing them an increased ability to gain employment and housing.

*Individualization-prison officials conduct a thorough and individualized assessment of every prisoner’s strengths, needs, and risk factors that will be used to create each prisoner an individualized care plan.

*Jobs-all prisoners who are able to work should be given the opportunity to do so, ideally being matched to prisoners after a review of their skills and interests when possible.

*Computers-Computers and online controlled access are important for prisoners who seek to further their education and to keep pace with technology so that they are better prepared to find employment when leaving prison.

*Education and vocational training-assist or continue to assist with obtaining GED’s as well as vocational training and certification designed to increase the likelihood of the prisoner finding gainful employment upon release.

*Drug treatment and mental health treatment-improve programs and availability to all prisoners with a need after appropriate screening to ensure the correct avenue is attempted with the individual.

*Sentence-reduction incentives and others to non-violent threat-to-society prisoners-allow prisoners to earn time off their sentences, extra visiting privileges or phone privileges by attending, completing the above programs.

The Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections studied the BOP’s vocational training and stated the following: "Lengthy waitlists indicate that BOP needs to immediately expand occupations training and educational programs". This task force also interviewed 2,000 inmates between 2015-2016 and came up with the following statistics. "Ninety-seven percent of respondents would participate in recidivism-reducing programs for sentence-reducing reductions and eighty-nine percent for other incentives".

One more area to mention that is showing results and needs to be an area given more time and attention are Drug Courts; "judicially supervised court dockets that strike the proper balance between the need to protect community safety and the need to improve public health and well-being; between the need for treatment and the need to hold people accountable for their actions; between hope and redemption on the one hand and good citizenship on the other. Drug courts keep nonviolent drug-addicted individuals (mostly first or second time offenders) in treatment for long periods of time, supervise them closely. Clients receive the treatment and other services they require to stay clean and to lead productive lives, but they are also held accountable by a judge for meeting their own obligations to society, themselves and their families. They are regularly and randomly tested for drug use, required to appear in court for the judge to review their progress, and receive rewards for doing well and sanctions for not living up to their obligations. The scientific community has put Drug Courts under it’s microscope and concluded that Drug Courts work better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone. Drug Courts significantly reduce drug use and crime and do it cheaper than any other justice strategy."

Thank you so much for your time and consideration today. As you choose a cause or two that you’d like to support, this is just one of thousands that could lead to improvements in society. Any support you’d like to provide to assist with a movement that leads to more programs offered for those (who qualify) that are incarcerated, becoming mandatory, would undoubtedly lead to improved outcomes for numerous offenders post-incarceration, in turn leading to decreasing the percentage that we support for the rest of their lives. It will take time and money; but everything does and this to me is in the top five issues that need addressed in America if we are going to have success in moving forward with improved outcomes.  Your contact to begin with to communicate your own concerns is Joe Norwood, KDOC Secretary of Corrections for Kansas or your specific state's Department of Corrections seat-holders.

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